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Noir Episode

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In 1999, the AFI named Humphrey Bogart the greatest male movie star of all time. One guess what film genre he was the poster child for.

Film Noir is one of the most popular and recognizable genres in the history of film. Practically everyone can recognize its tropes, and everyone knows the staples of it. Not surprisingly, a lot of writers and actors grew up loving it, so it would only make sense they would reference it.

An episode that parodies or homages Film Noir, in a series that otherwise doesn't. Will almost always be Deliberately Monochrome and feature a Private Eye Monologue, and may contrive a way to get characters into period costume; other noir tropes might or might not appear. In long-running series, often used in the manner of a sorbet, to cleanse the audience's palate after numerous high-octane episodes.

Sub-Trope of Formula-Breaking Episode, and arguably a form of Out-of-Genre Experience. If the noir elements occur in a dream sequence or other alternate reality, it's also a Costumer. Compare Heist Episode, which usually involves robbery.

Examples of single episodes:

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    Anime & Manga 

    Audio Plays 


    Fan Works 
  • Calvin & Hobbes: The Series uses Tracer Bullet also, "Tracer Bullet In Color!" being entirely dedicated to him.
  • "In Search of Certainty" comprises two chapters of The Memory Band, part of Skyhold Academy Yearbook. It's an In-Universe fanfic of Varric's crime serial Hard in Hightown, submitted as a writing assignment by two of the school's students. The format returns in the eleventh installment, Bright Jewels, Chained City, where the same two students expand their original fic into a novel-length project for their final grade. Many noir tropes are deliberately invoked, including what are sometimes over-the-top analogies.
    “Anybody got any bright ideas?” [the detective] muttered, squinting as they walked out into the sunlight. He felt tired and heavy, like a sack of potatoes that had been weighted down with another sack of potatoes and left to rot.
  • Half Past Adventure, in the vein of its source material Adventure Time, has a noir parody in the form of "The Mystery of the Purloined Pudding", starring jaded detective Cash Daniels.
  • Chapter 37 of The Victors Project has this motif. It focuses on Mags's personal investigation into the death of Wheaton, another Hunger Games Victor. Mags travels to different bars and clubs in the Capitol's underbelly, and in one seedy nightclub, she meets a mysterious Peacekeeper who has critical information, but he will only help her if she helps him with some political intrigue. Mags soon uncovers a major political plot/sex scandal, and unbeknownst to her, the mysterious Peacekeeper is Secretary of State Coriolanus Snow, who uses the information she gives him to move against his political enemies and consolidate power. When Mags learns the truth and realizes she was an Unwitting Pawn, she literally says, "My God, What Have I Done?!"

  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe:
  • The Ned Stark sections in A Game of Thrones has been described as similar to a Noir story, where Ned's investigations into a political murder reveal a web of deceit, betrayal, a plan to murder his friend the king, and that's just talking about the Femme Fatale. He also comes into contact with three additional conspiracies (Varys, Littlefinger, and Renly), and his merciful heart leads to his own demise at the hands of one of the people he was trying to save. Forget it, Ned, it's Kings Landingtown.
  • The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Relaunch novel I, the Constable has Odo searching for Quark on Feringar, and discovering that the case has a lot in common with the hardboiled detective stories O'Brien has shared with him. The cover shows him wearing a fedora and trenchcoat.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A mild version in Cold Case. The episode "Joseph" is basically a Gender Flipped retelling of the 1944 film noir Laura, but stylistically the episode doesn't draw on noir at all.
  • "Competitive Ecology" in Community is a very, very mundane Film Noir with Chang in the role of a detective.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Deadly Assassin" was written as one due to the challenge the script posed — Tom Baker had been begging for a story without a companion he could explain the plot to, and the producer decided to give him just one (in order to prove to him it wouldn't work). The writer was then forced to come up with a new way of having the Doctor tell the story, which naturally led to the idea of him narrating, which he associated with the Private Eye Monologue, and so a one-shot noir story was the obvious genre choice. It's an interesting Pastiche in that the serial uses lots of the tone, storytelling and aesthetic noir tropes, but it avoids the big giveaway garnishes everyone associates with noir, to the point where it's possible to watch the episode without realizing what it's doing.
    • "The Happiness Patrol" was originally going to be a black-and-white noir pastiche called "The Crooked Smile".
    • "The Angels Take Manhattan", both being a mystery episode set in New York with all the accompanying cinematographic effects, and with the central conceit that the Doctor can find out what to do next from a detective novel of the events.
  • Father Dowling Mysteries had an episode where the case of the week involved a really bad detective story loosely based on Father Dowling and Sister Stephanie, and every now and then, the narrative changed to a black and white film showing the events in the book, which mirrored the actual investigation.
  • Fringe episode 20 of season 2 ("Brown Betty") combined this with a Musical Episode — that's right, a film noir musical. Justified in that it was a story within a story told by a drugged Walter to Olivia's niece.
  • A subversion in the How I Met Your Mother episode "Of Course": The Teaser plays like this, with Barney on the Private Eye Monologue — but the rest of the episode is in the show's usual style.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: "The Janitor Always Mops Twice" sees Charlie as the hardboiled janitor pursuing the mystery of who "diarrhea poisoned" Frank, Dennis as the gangster, Mac as his goon, The Waitress as Femme Fatale, and Dee as the goon who thinks she is a Femme Fatale. The episode is also Deliberately Monochrome except for the color red, features a Private Eye Monologue from Charlie, and is accompanied by a noir-style jazz score.
  • iZombie: In "Night And The Zombie City" Liz eats the brain of a P.I. and subsequently acts like a hardboiled detective, refusing to wait for a warrant, going off investigating on her own, and reacting with violence to Blaine. She also wears a trenchcoat and has an old-timey vernacular. Ravi also eats from the brain and then delivers a Private Eye Monologue. The episode also features a jazz soundtrack and is darkly lit.
  • Legends of Tomorrow, "Miss Me, Kiss Me, Love Me". It has the Legends going back to 1940's LA and tangling with Bugsy Siegel and Jeanie Hill; how could they resist?
  • The Lois & Clark episode "Fly Hard". Half noir black and white episode paralleling the Superman characters in present day.
  • Lucifer (2016): Season 5 has an episode where Lucifer tells Trixie the story of how he got his ring via noir-themed flashbacks. These scenes are filmed in black and white for the full Film Noir effect. Additionally, the main characters are a hard-boiled Private Investigator, a mob boss, a stranger from out of town, and an alluring woman with a mysterious past. It also features deliberate Special Effects Failures done in the same way as a 1940s film would have, with things like fake blood that looks like dried ketchup, a driving scene with the characters sitting in a car mockup while a film of a city street is played on a screen behind them, and other similar things.
  • "The Big Nap" an episode of Mama's Family where after watching detective movies on TV for a week, Mama dreams she is a private detective hired to find a client's missing mother.
  • The Married... with Children episode "Al Bundy, Shoe Dick", where Al pretends to be a noirish private eye after getting a measly job working as the real detective's janitor and cleaning up his office. He is invited to a private party by a sultry dame who mistakes him for the real deal and where he has to solve an unexpected murder, and the Private Eye Monologueing is roundly spoofed. After solving the mystery it turns out it was All Just a Dream.
  • The Monk episode "Mr. Monk And The Leper" seemed to have borrowed from Film Noir and even broadcast the episode in black and white.
  • The Moonlighting episode "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice". Dave and Maddie dream about a murder case, with each of them tilting the story the way they think it happened. The episode was subjected to heavy Executive Meddling as the studio didn't like the scenes being shot in black and white and forced the crew to add a disclaimer read by Orson Welles before the episode to explain what was happening.
  • The Muppet Show: The Liza Minelli episode features the Muppets staging a film noir murder mystery, featuring Liza as a lounge singer and Kermit as a hard-boiled private eye.
  • The Murdoch Mysteries episode "D.O.A." which is Deliberately Monochrome, pushes the clothes and set-dressing as far as possible towards the noir era without actually leaving the 1910s, inlcudes a lot more smoking, has grey-area actions by the heroes, and is a Whole-Plot Reference to the film of the same name.
  • One Tree Hill season 6, episode 11, "We Three (My Echo, My Shadow and Me)" shows the characters in the 1940s, with everything paralleling their current lives.
  • Our Miss Brooks: "Postage Due" sees Miss Brooks search for a vanished postman wearing a trench coat and narrating the action with a Private Eye Monologue.
  • "Shadow Play" was a Noir Episode in season 4 of Pretty Little Liars. Under the influence of prescription drugs, Spencer hallucinates while watching a Film Noir movie. In her Dream Sequence, Toby is a PI, Hanna is a switchboard operator, and Mona and Ezra are cooperating against the girls, while demostrating some Ship Tease.
  • The first season finale of Quantum Leap (1989) called "Play it Again, Seymour" both uses and spoofs noir tropes. Sam is cast as a P.I., in the typical old fashioned office, takes the case of a beautiful bombshell in distress, dances to a 1940s-style band, and leaps into a body that even resembles and dresses like Humphrey Bogart.
  • The show Radio Active had a noir episode with Morgan as the detective, giving her own Private Eye Monologue. It included a direct riff on To Have and Have Not's famous 'whistle' line.
  • There is a scene in a Sabrina the Teenage Witch episode where she goes to find a detective in the Other Realm. The parody of Film Noir then starts with her entering the detective's office and the detective narrating...who is then revealed to be Roland (a recurring dwarf character whom she dislikes).
  • The Sledge Hammer! episode "Play It Again, Sledge", which specifically spoofs the Humphrey Bogart Sam Spade noir films. After getting suspended Sledge decides to become a private detective, and the Femme Fatale who comes to him for help frames him for the murder of her husband, all the while he's assisted by a Spirit Advisor of Bogart himself.
  • The Smallville episode "Noir". They went full-on noir here — black and white, period costumes, references to noir-era "Superman", and a noir-ish storyline.
  • The Small Wonder episode "Big 'J', Private Eye" had this as Jamie's book report.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Necessary Evil" had Constable Odo using the Private Eye Monologue to parody the Captain's Log, and flashbacks to a murder he investigated while working for the Cardassian occupiers. Bonus points for dark shadows enveloping everything (even in the "present", as it takes place during the station's night shift), thunderstorms in the first scene (on Bajor), a wealthy and shifty widow who's a bit of The Vamp, and Quark being surprisingly hard-boiled himself (which amusingly fits with Armin Shimmerman's Bogart-like voice). Interestingly, it isn't the widow but series regular Major Kira who turns out to be the Femme Fatale murderer—leading to a quite noir-ish Black-and-Grey Morality ending.
    • Another, far less impressive attempt at Noir by Star Trek is Voyager's "Ex Post Facto", in which an arrested Tom Paris makes a recording of the events that led up to his incarceration, a la a toned-down Double Indemnity. The recording is a (faked, as it turns out) memory of the murder he's forced to relive in his mind every day for the rest of his life as punishment.
    • Any episode of Next Generation in which Picard plays 1940s P.I. Dixon Hill on the holodeck, starting with "The Big Goodbye".
  • The Warehouse 13 episode "The Big Snag" has Myka and Pete getting trapped in a hard-boiled detective novel that is also an artifact. The episode even has a Special Edition Title with a saxophone version of the theme tune and a sputtering neon sign logo.
  • Similarly, The Librarians "...and the Silver Screen" has Flynn and Eve get trapped in a film noir and unable to leave until they follow the script to the end. The original script, not the one that was filmed.
  • Weird Science offered up "The Genie Detective" from its last season. Lisa plays a VR game where she is Legs MacGuffin. The story characters resemble Wyatt (a shifty businessman), Gary (a jockey), Chett (the client), and Scampi (a quirky doctor). The case is to find the antidote for the poison the client was given. Everything's in black-and-white, and narration is regularly employed. We learn partway through the story that the client really is Chett; he secretly joined the game and poisoned himself as part of a misguided effort to be close to Lisa. He thought he'd be fine since it's just VR, but dying in the game means dying for real, and someone swiped the antidote he had hidden, so the duo really do have to solve the case. It turns out Wyatt also secretly entered the game and was responsible for this, though he didn't know Chett could die for real.
  • The Supernatural episode "A Most Holy Man" borrows heavily from The Maltese Falcon and various other Noir icons.
  • A brief gag in the Stargate SG-1 episode "200" had Teal'c pitching a TV show where he starred as a private detective, shot and narrated in this style.

  • Australian rock band The Church managed to have a noir song - "Loveblind" on their album Sometime Anywhere. Starts off with "Have I told you 'bout the case/Of the man who had no face...".
  • Gemini Man's song GeminEye from The Megas' History Repeating: Red album is a essentially a noir episode, with themes and vocabulary drawn from noir detective stories.
  • Dire Straits' spoken-word song "Private Investigations" has noir themes, in addition to being a Private Eye Monologue.

  • The Storyteller sketch in Season 3 Episode 4 of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme:
    Storyteller: Well, since you ask me for a tale of mean streets and hard boiled dames, there is one curious tale you may find of interest. It all began one rainy Chicago night in black and white during a period that I was, for tax reasons, an American.

  • In-Universe: Sally's science project in Me and My Dick. What we hear about it.
    Sally::Well, I was thinking we do a Film Noir about silver nitrate. You know, AgNO3... [later]... and it's not until the silver and the nitrogen find all three of the oxygens do they finally solve the case!!!

    Video Games 
  • In Battleborn, the DLC story operation "Attikus and the Thrall Rebellion" is Attikus' account of the eponymous rebellion via holo sim with some creative liberties taken by him that frames it like a stereotypical Film Noir detective story complete with various tropes commonly associated with the genre.
  • Discworld Noir deserves an honorable mention, though it was a video game that was a spinoff from the books.
  • Pretty much all the missions that have to do with Garrus in the Mass Effect series tend to be heavily inspired by Noir.
  • Fallout 4 features one Nick Valentine as a follower the player character picks up in the main quest. He’s a straight up hard boiled detective, trench coat, fedora and all. In addition to being important to complete the main quest, the “Far Harbor” add on revolves around a case he and the player character are hired to solve involving a missing teenage girl on an island off the coast of Maine.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots had a Noir Level, though it was more a homage to classic Cloak and Dagger spy stories than detective noir.
  • The beginning of Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse's third episode, where Sam doesn't take kindly to Max's brain being stolen. This part of the game is entirely about Sam, hard-eyed and heartbroken, drifting around town and interrogating suspects with a variety different methods. One of these methods is 'Noir', which lets loose several overly-dramatic parodies of noir monologues.
    Sam: Sure. Hide behind your crates. But one of these days the gutters will overflow, and stain your pretty white socks with the blood of the innocent.
    Frankie the Rat: ...Socks? I don't wear socks. I'm a rat!
    Sam: And don't you forget it.
  • The Spider-Man Noir segments of Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions.

  • A Damaged Tape strip aptly titled "Dave Noir", where Dave discovers he has a Private Eye Monologue playing in his head (it ends up being, however, that he has schizophrenia).
  • The "Legerdemain & Magic" storyline in Dead Marlo (begins here).

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • 101 Dalmatians: The Series: The episodes "The Maltese Chicken" And "K Is For Kibble" feature Spot in her Pullet Marlow persona trying to solve a mystery, in a parody of classic film noir mysteries.
  • Adventure Time: "B-MO Noire" has BMO playing at being a hard-boiled private eye while trying to find Finn's lost sock, complete with black and white and dramatic narration.
  • Amphibia: In "Little Frogtown", Hop Pop is inspired by some detective movies Anne had saved on her phone to do a film noir-style investigation of the apparent mysterious disappearance of his old friend Sal. The Character Narration is Lampshaded quite often.
  • Animaniacs episode "This Pun for Hire" with the Warners do a film noir parody, taking every cliché and killing them with many bad puns. Feature Ralph as villain and also Minerva Mink as Femme Fatale.
  • Archer Dreamland is an entire noir season for its parent series, Archer, though it's part of the protagonist's Adventures in Comaland. Instead of his usual work as a spy, Archer dreams of being a Hardboiled Detective in 1947 Los Angeles.
  • Episode A Bullet for Bullock of Batman: The Animated Series is told from Bullock's POV, following the general format of a straightforward 40s detective story and even has jazz music to match. Although the entire show is Neo-Noir looking normally.
  • The Beetlejuice episode "Ear's Looking at You" is a send-up to film noir where Beetlejuice takes on the persona of a noir detective named Sham Shpade.
  • Playhouse Disney's The Book of Pooh did this in "The Case of the Disappeared Donkey," with Tigger as detective "Stripey McSnarl" and doing the monologue bits, at times annoying or confusing the other characters.
    Tigger: So you wanna play games, do ya'?
    Pooh: Well, I suppose I could play some games. Pooh sticks is very nice. Oh, and so is croquet.
    Tigger: He was playing dumb and he was good at it. But not as good as I was.
  • The ''Cars Toon'' "Mater: Private Eye". Private investigator Mater must solve a case about counterfeit tyres and track down the whereabouts of Tia's sister, Mia, who's been car-napped.
  • The Captain Planet and the Planeteers episode "The Big Clam-Up" has Ma-Ti monologuing his way through a series of black-and-white fantasy sequences while the team solves a mystery in San Francisco.
  • Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys has an episode with the crew in a rainy noir movie-looking planet getting involved in a Maltese Falconish plot.
  • Dan Vs.: "The Catburglar", complete with Private Eye Monologue narration by Dan, a Femme Fatale named Honey O'Houlihan, and a sepia tone filter over most of the scenes.
  • Duckman had one, in which Cornfed took on the role of the hard-boiled detective. (Which he kind of is, anyway.) There were femmes fatales, atmosphere music, fog, black and white, the whole deal.
  • There's one episode of The Fairly OddParents!, "Where's Wanda?", set in a Film Noir style, which Timmy specifically wished for. It even poked fun at the usual black-and-white visuals, with a corner of Timmy's room still being grayscale after he wished away the Film Noir effect. The end has a Shout-Out to Casablanca.
  • Garfield's Babes and Bullets, much like its source material (a prose story in Garfield: His 9 Lives), concerns an homage to film noir where Garfield is a detective investigating a murder.
  • There is an episode of Gargoyles in which Broadway did this, called "The Silver Falcon".
    • "Revelations," as well.
  • Goofy: The 1952 short "How to Be a Detective" casts Goofy as "Johnny Eyeball", a detective who's hired to find a Runaway Groom known only as "Al".
  • Hey Arnold!: "Grandpa's Packard"
  • Hercules: The Animated Series: "Hercules and the Aetolian Amphora" casts the hero-in-training as a stand-in for a P.I., his future wife Megara as the fast-talking Femme Fatale hiring him, and an amphora full of Lethe water stolen from the Underworld as the desired object. Meg claimed the amphora was a family heirloom, but she hired a Centaur to get her the water and stash it in there, as she wanted to forget Adonis. As Meg strings Herc along to be her muscle, Pain and Panic are searching for the water, while Fear and Terror also want it to make Ares forget he grounded them. Along with appropriate music and terminology, there's the requisite narration for most of the episode (though it's revealed Hercules had been telling the story to a couple side characters to vent about being double crossed by the sultry dame he fell for). The episode maintains continuity with the movie by having Hercules and Meg doused in the Lethe water, thus making them forget falling for each other.
  • The Kaeloo episode "Let's Play Detectives".
  • Mega Man: Fully Charged: In "A Guilded Cage", Aki starts talking and acting like a film noir detective after watching a late-night movie. It even extends to his moments as Mega Man, where most of the segments are shot in black and white and backed with jazzy "detective music".
  • Mr. Bogus: "Bogus Private Eye"
  • From My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic the episode "Rarity Investigates" is a homage to the genre, complete with Deliberately Monochrome colors, Chiaroscuro lighting, and muted trumpet music during Rarity's detective mode.
  • Phineas and Ferb had an episode in which the two boys were inspired by a Film Noir movie to become private eyes and even applied black and white makeup to themselves. As it progresses, they end up parodying more modern detective shows as well:
    "Aren't you a little young to know about all these old detective shows?"
    "Yes, yes we... (puts on Sunglasses) are."
  • Pinky and the Brain:
    • The episode "Brain Noir".
    • The show also parodied the famous British Noir The Third Man in "The Third Mouse", a black-and-white episode that trades heavily on Brain's Orson Welles-like voice.
  • Recess: "The Girl was Trouble". In fact, the French title for the episode was, "Black Series for the Girl in Blue". (The "blue" part referring to Gretchen's signature outfit.)
  • The Rugrats episode "Radio Daze" alternated between its normal style and a Film Noir style while parodying the classic film The Maltese Falcon.
  • An episode of Samurai Jack about the assassin robot who found a dog and became a trumpet player before being forced back into his old role by Aku.
  • The second season Superman: The Animated Series episode "The Late Mr. Kent", which features Superman narrating (in full Private Eye Monologue) the story of how Clark Kent was "murdered" while investigating a death row inmate's wrongful conviction.
  • The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) animated series has some City Noir elements in its own right, including the trench coat and fedora disguise the turtles wear while in public, but goes full blown private eye tribute in the episode "The Maltese Hamster," with Donatello giving the monologue.
  • The Simpsons:
    • The episode "Dial N for Nerder", while not done in black and white, uses noir music cues and has scenes which mirror famous noir films, most notably the supermarket scene from Double Indemnity. The A and B plots reflect that, with the former concerning Lisa and Bart's attempts to cover up their involvement with the accidental death of a classmate, while Marge suspects Homer of cheating (on his diet). Homer even wears a fedora and trench coat, and the end credits are in the style of Columbo.
    • "The Dad Who Knew Too Little" focuses on Homer hiring a stereotypical noir Private Detective so that he can learn about Lisa. The episode ends with a house-of-mirrors shootout a la The Lady from Shanghai.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Squid Noir, a season 11 episode, where Squidward becomes a hard-boiled detective to find his missing clarinet.
  • The Venture Bros. had one in season 4, with Hank fancying himself a noir detective. The picture switches to monochrome whenever he puts on his fedora. (it came with a whip! A detective's whip!)

Examples of recurring "bits":

    Comic Strips 
  • The "Tracer Bullet" comics from Calvin and Hobbes. Amazingly enough, creator Bill Watterson confessed to having almost no familiarity with the noir genre when creating the comics. Despite this, they're one of the best noir parodies out there.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The children's show Between the Lions had Sam Spud, Par-Boiled Potato Detective. The bits were frequently a Hurricane of Puns as everything Sam narrated was literally true. The absurdity of it was always lampshaded by a child watching the show, only to be assured by their mother that the show was educational and, thus, should be good for them... somehow.
  • The Velma Mulholland sketches from In Living Color!. Velma was a 1940's noir-type character in the 1990's. To contrast this, she is in black and white (her apartment and her car are the same way) while everything else is in color.
  • The Dixon Hill episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, despite lacking the usually-obligatory black and white.
    • The producers originally planned for the holodeck scenes of "The Big Goodbye" to be in black and white but were concerned about how could they justify the holodeck making the real people black and white. However, they seemed to have abandoned this concern by the time that Captain Proton made his debut in Star Trek: Voyager.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway? has a game called Film Noir, in which the players (typically Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie) would narrate for one another.


    Web Comics 
  • In Pibgorn, this is Nat Bustard's signature style, and he often transforms the strip.


Video Example(s):


"The Mysterious Case of Who Sh

Most of "The Mysterious Case of Who Sh*t My Pants" is in black and white and Mike spends most of the video dressed like an anachronistic Hardboiled Detective.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / NoirEpisode

Media sources: